Is Organic Junk Food the Gateway Drug to Eating Healthy?

In the information age, we are constantly pulled between extremes of ideas and scientific understanding. We’re bombarded with conflicting information and powerful arguments to believe one thing or another. Many of us are left feeling guilty, or perhaps even superior, for our ideals or lack thereof.

One pervasive idea is that junk food, of any kind, is bad for you. Regardless of what food camp you fall in, you will always be struck with this idea. From Vegan to Paleo, junk food is bad, right? But what defines “junk food”? For many of us in the Real Food world, any kind of junk food, even if it’s organic and additive free, is bad for you. Chips, bottled sauces, sodas, fruit snacks, ice cream – it’s all bad for you as long as it’s not homemade. And buying it means you’re supporting industries that are reaping huge profits off the latest health crazes without necessarily caring about the products they make.

In my nearly 3-year-long journey to eating healthier, I’ve come to the conclusion that this idea is not quite what it has been made out to be. It is true that most store bought items, even if they’re organic and have simple ingredients, are not going to be as good for you as homemade items. Many organic foods still contain preservatives and other additives, food dyes, rancid oils, and even totally unknown ingredients like “natural flavorings” that covers a massive list of disgusting things.

But while we’re talking truth, let’s look at the flip side: organic and natural junk food is an important step up from the alternatives. Go ahead and compare a bag of Kettle chips to Doritos. If you had to pick one for your kid, would there really be any contest? Pick up any can of cane sugar soda and compare it to Coke or Pepsi. Again, no contest.

Why is this important? Unfortunately we live in a world where these junk foods are not only commonplace, but are actually a part of our culture now. One of the greatest struggles many people face in trying to transform their diet is giving up things like soda and chips. Not only are these foods designed to be addicting, but they’re so pervasive that it’s basically impossible to escape temptation.

But it’s not just those currently addicted to junk foods who struggle. Many people who are sick or depressed frequently rely on the convenience of such foods, and even so-called “health” foods like Lean Cuisine, to make it through their day. Sure, it would be easy enough to make some slow cooker freezer meals, but if you lack the energy and drive to go that far, do you have any options?

Enter organic and natural junk foods! I’m speaking from experience here when I say that there is a place for organic and natural chips, sodas, and all of the rest of the packaged and frozen convenience foods that are otherwise not really that healthy. When nearly your whole diet is comprised of disgusting foods that fill grocery store shelves and you’re living off of boxed cereal and canned soup, any step in the right direction is a good one.

In fact, you might be surprised just how much these foods can help.

First, you’re going to begin changing your taste for certain foods. With the removal of MSG and other hyper-stimulating substances, your brain is going to begin rewiring itself. You will crave these foods less and begin to feel better, curbing the addiction. This opens the pathway into accepting healthier foods down the road.

Ceasing to consume all of the unnatural ingredients found in those foods will ease the toxic burden on your body, also increasing energy and allowing your body to begin healing. Once you have begun healing, it is easier to not revert back to old ways as the body will begin rejecting those toxic foods.

Knowing that you can still eat basically the same foods as you always have opens up your mind to the ways in which you can eat healthier without sacrificing fun, convenience, or social stimulation. For people who view “health foods” as being a big downer, this is a big deal.

The high cost of these organic/natural convenience foods will limit how much you eat. This helps with the natural “weaning” process onto cheaper, healthier homemade foods. Why keep buying cane sugar soda when you can make water kefir for pennies?

You could really say that organic junk food is the gateway drug to eating healthier. No, it’s still not good for you and it’s not ok to live off of it, but if you’re struggling or just starting out, it can actually be a huge help. I say embrace it where necessary on your path to a healthier you!

What do you say? Do organic junk foods have a place at the table?

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  • Shae
    June 10, 2013 at 7:27 PM

    Great post. Realistic and non-judgemental, good for you.

    • Cassandra
      June 10, 2013 at 7:35 PM

      Thank you!

  • Erin MacLachlan
    June 14, 2013 at 6:24 AM

    I have found this to be very true. I do start craving more healthy foods w hen I eat healthy junk foods. I also love that you stood up for the people who have depression. A lot of people don’t understand how hard it can be just to make food some day when you are really bad. My issue is I don’t eat less always because it is expensive. The expense cam really to us just graduated, bought a house, and a new car types. I love your slow cookery freezer ideas, but I still haven’t gotten off my bum. It really does come from small steps though. I just bought a food scale and felt silly at first, now I know it was a great decision. I do a lot more portioning because I’m not guessing at the weight servings. Small but important. Ps sorry for bad grammar I’m on my phone.

    • Stephanie
      June 16, 2013 at 12:23 AM

      One foot in front of the other, always moving forward that is the only thing that matters. And even when you have major slips ups and back tracks, think of it in the big picture of things, are you doing better than 10 years ago? 5 years ago, then yes even if it is 2 steps forward and 5 steps back, you are still moving forward.

  • Diana
    June 20, 2013 at 4:39 PM

    Ooh, I love this line of thought! We don’t eat lots of junk food of the Doritos/Coke variety, and I’m always quick to say something like “Don’t just switch to organic poptarts and think you’re good to go” when someone talks about wanting to eat healthier/less processed food. But you made some really good points–organic poptarts/chips/soda could be a really great baby step, especially for weaning tastebuds away from the norm and using price to limit portion sizes. Awesome!

    • Cassandra
      June 20, 2013 at 5:08 PM

      So glad the perspective came through clearly, thanks for sharing!